Back in the summer of 2014, Chelsea brought in two vital pieces to future Premier League titles in Cesc Fàbregas and Diego Costa. The Spanish duo, acquired from Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, respectively, would go on to form an often telepathic connection on the pitch, with Fabregas’s pin-point passing through and over the top of opposition defences for Costa to chase and score from becoming a trademark feature of Chelsea’s championships in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
But now that connection has been officially broken, and Cesc, who had spoken publicly in support of keeping Costa multiple times in the past, will certainly miss the striker, and not just on the pitch.
"It's a shame for him more than anyone [else]. Diego knew that if he signed for Atlético he could not play for a few months. It has been a difficult situation for both him and for Chelsea; it has been wrong."
"Clearly I would have preferred for him to continue as a teammate. Diego will never be a rival to me. In recent years there has not been a pure striker better than him; he understood my game, read my passes and most importantly he could score from them. With Diego it is not just what he gives you on the pitch but it is his character, too, he brings a lot to the group."
But what’s done is done and we move on. Fabregas will just have to develop a new connection with the new Spanish kid on the block. As a model professional, Cesc will undoubtedly do just that. He’s conquered tougher challenges before already, including last summer when many had written him off as a player with no prospects in any team lead by Antonio Conte.
"There were people around me saying I needed to change clubs, but I knew what I could give to the team. I decided to stay and fight."
"With Antonio [Conte] there is no option other than competing at 100% in every training session and every match. I had prepared myself mentally and physically to turn around everything. It has been a triumph. Not everyone knows what I went through during these months [as a back-up]. Some people said that it was not worth. And now being here [in London] this way, it makes me quite happy."
That sounds pretty simple when described in that way, but by no means was a regular spot in the squad rotation assured for Fabregas, especially after participating in the disaster that was the 3-0 loss to Arsenal and following that up with an injury that sidelined him for several weeks. He made his return in the game away to Manchester City, which could’ve turned out very differently if Kevin De Bruyne doesn’t miss the empty net from five yards out.
"I'm not going to deny it, it was a difficult season. I came from playing everything with [José] Mourinho and [Guus] Hiddink and then suddenly I was not counted on all of the time. I had a drop [in form] and then an injury that took me off the pitch for a month."
"The team began to change, there was a shift in the tactical system and from that on it seemed as if I could not enter [Conte's] plans, but I always believed in myself. I know what I can give [on the pitch] and I know I get up to work as hard as I can. I got in my mind that I had to turn around my situation."
"The Manchester City match-up [back in December last year] was the turning point. [Nemanja] Matic was injured, the team were on a 7-game winning streak and suddenly I got in [the starting line-up]. I had never played in the 3-4-3... Had the team lost that day it would be the end [for me]. Everything went well, we won on a [3-1] comeback and we played solidly."
-Cesc Fabregas; source: Marca
Plenty of top clubs would have offered Fabregas basically a guaranteed spot in their starting eleven (if perhaps not quite as much in wages) but Cesc stayed, put in maximum effort in training, and convinced Conte of his usefulness. It’s an example that should be followed by any and all, young and old, old and new.
Cesc and Chelsea have picked up where they left off and Fabregas has started all but two of the games so far this season. Even if that trend is likely to not continue as Bakayoko comes up to speed, Cesc has proven himself to be an extremely valuable and often game-changing member of the squad.